Oleg Karpov

This text is a fragment of the original chapter of the book.

After a couple of strong years in Mini, Daniil got the opportunity that is the dream of almost all 13-year-olds who are seriously involved in karting. He was noticed by Dino Chiesa, one of the most influential and famous figures in the world of karting not just in the Appenines [?], but in the whole of Europe. Just six or seven years prior his MBM team fielded Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton side-by-side: a Formula 1 champion's son who himself had already become the leader of the legendary Williams team and a driver who very nearly won the F1 title in his first season with McLaren in 2007.

Now Chiesa was at the helm of chassis manufacturer Zanardi's team, and he wanted Kvyat to drive for him. Daniil was recommended to him by Pellegrini. "We gradually realised that it was time to start racing at the European level," Kvyat says. "But Franco wasn't ready for that. So he, you could say, handed us over to Dino."

"Chiesa initiated the whole thing," Kvyat Sr. recalls. "He showed up at a race, talked to Daniil. Told him: 'You're good, you should race for me.' Even promised a mechanic, Mirko, who had worked in the past with Lewis among others – he'd started helping us when we were still racing for Pellegrini."

For Chiesa himself, one of his first meetings with Kvyat made a big impression.

Dino Chiesa:
"We met in the team's office. He was very polite, reserved, but told me almost first thing: 'Dino, I know I'll be a Formula 1 driver. So we have to work together, and the results will come.' Those were the words of a 13-year-old boy. All of them dream of Formula 1 at that age, but Daniil was absolutely certain of it.

"I didn't talk to his father much. He allowed his son to do what was necessary. There's a saying in Italy – 'released from the leash'. I think it's for cases like these. Slava didn't hold Daniil on a leash. I think he realised that his son was taking it all very seriously, and just gave him the opportunity to do what he wanted, and do it by himself. Of course, Formula 1 was his dream. But when you're taking about Daniil, you could say it wasn't so much a dream, but a plan. It's easy to say now that it was all done right. But when he was 13, nobody could be sure that decisions like that - moving to a different country, abandoning school – weren't a mistake. They were tough decisions to make, but now, seeing the result, you can say it worked out.

"Daniil always stood out. He was very aggressive, but all of his conflicts didn't go outside the track. I remember once, after he had a run-in with another driver, his rival's father came over to the tent. Daniil greeted him with the words: 'This only concerns your son and myself'. Very polite, but quite firm. And that was Daniil. That kind of behaviour from him never surprised me, as he was 13 only on paper."

Daniil himself, meanwhile, was left with an even bigger impression after meeting Chiesa. Dino's titles and his experience of working with F1 stars, spoke for themselves. Stately, level-headed, never raising his voice – Chiesa's whole demeanour inspired confidence.

"We'd eat dinner together and he'd show us messages from Rosberg," Kvyat Sr. recalled. " 'There's Nico, complaining about tyre behaviour in practice', or something like that." Daniil added: "Moments like these you're just staring at the person, thinking: 'Whoa. What people... they things they've done... what names.' Of course, in due time, you realise that you have to first and foremost rely on your own brain and not blindly put trust in anyone else. But at that point, when you've signed your first deal, when you're driving in your first tests, doing your first races on an entirely new level, it's all so unusual. And you're listening, taking it in, thinking how to get it all right, how not to mess up. And influenced by all of that, you become as if controlled by someone."

In the next half-year, Kvyat successfully came down to earth. The Chiesa partnership didn't bring victories or titles. In the first round of the WSK series at the La Conca track in Apulia, Kvyat finished 30th in the KF3 class. He then flopped at Angerville, failing to make the 34-strong final race. But worst of all was that the Zanardi chassis – in theory the same as Kvyat's – was working out for another driver, Nyck de Vries, who was basically flying around the tracks. The small Dutchman -who would later be managed, by sheer circumstance, by Anthony Hamilton, known to Dino from MBM – was tearing through his rivals, quickly establishing himself as the lead driver in the KF3 class and in Chiesa's team.

"Nyck was so fast," contends Alessandro Ferrari, who served as a steward in races that both de Vries and Kvyat were contesting. "He was very small, which is ideal for karting. Naturally, he's a great driver, clearly talented, but when Nyck moved to formula racing, it all fell back into place. It took him three seasons to win Formula Renault 2.0, even though he had dominated in karting. Dino had loads of experience, but the kart Dany got in his team was regular, while Nyck had full technical support. He had the ideal kart, because Dino basically built the chassis around him."

Finally, Chiesa and Hamilton Sr. managed to, in a way, put de Vries on the same path that Hamilton Jr. had travelled to Formula 1. A year and a bit after Nyck started racing in KF3 came the announcement of his deal with McLaren.

Kvyat, for his part, could've only dreamed of interest from Formula 1 teams. In the first half of 2008, his results were getting worse and worse. Eventually, Daniil was very close to calling time on his career.

Daniil Kvyat:
"From the very start, it just didn't go quite right. Nyck showed up basically in the beginning, but in regional competitions at the start of the year him and I were fairly close in terms of results. But even at that point it was getting suspicious. His speed was better. We managed to put up a fight through aggression, hard racing, but soon it became clear: he was testing more, receiving more attention. He was getting more opportunities. I was, you could say, a foot soldier and even driving at the limit, I couldn't catch him.

"Worst of all, it wasn't just de Vries who was ahead, but a lot of other drivers. Naturally, at times like these you get to thinking: 'Maybe, it's just me who's not that fast?' To be honest, thoughts like that would rear their head all the time. You start to doubt yourself, your abilities, your talent. Sure, there were flashes, sometimes we had good pace. But that felt like the exception, not the rule. It was 'not the norm'. 'The norm' was when the speed vanished.

"Nyck always fought out front, led WSK from the first race, and we were 'nowhere'. At a certain point it became clear that a decision needed to be made. We needed to try something else, to go for a radical change. And if that were to not work, then I'd have probably had to accept that this world simply wasn't for me.

"I was 14, I was ready to dedicate myself fully to racing, but I started to doubt whether there was any sense in doing so. It was a breaking point. Like in poker: all or nothing. You realise that you've, in theory, got decent cards, but your rival leaves you no choice. Give up and lose everything that you had wagered – or go all-in. We opted for the latter."

Vyacheslav Kvyat recalls: "I remember winter testing with Dino. It was raining almost all the time, we'd be sat at different tracks for weeks, making the car – and we'd seemingly made it for Nyck. Daniil was constantly getting new engines and he'd head out on track to try them out, one after the other. They trialled a massive amount of engines. Daniil was working his socks off. I could see that the whole team was working, giving it everything. Fabiano, the mechanic, was saying straight up: 'This is it, Dany, we'll be champions next year'. They were fired up, working non-stop. And then something changed in February, something went wrong. Dino was no longer so friendly, and the races weren't going too well. The Winter Cup was more or less decent – we were fifth – but there were issues. Something kept happening with the kart, there were technical issues, problems and more, and more, and more."

The Kvyats understood that the lead driver role was gone [that they could only play second fiddle], and that continuing to race - at least, with Zanardi and Chiesa without full support of the latter – was pointless. Daniil could've ended his career aged 14.

"I remember how we arrived at one of the race meetings," Kvyat Sr continued. "We checked into the hotel, to a room with only one double bed, because all the other rooms had been taken. So we slept on the same bed, which did happen fairly often. And after another race with Chiesa's team that didn't go so well, we're sitting on that bed. I say: 'Well, Daniil, maybe we should call it?' He's staring ahead of him, doesn't say anything for a bit. Then he tells me: 'No, we're going to the end'. And that's that. No doubts then. To the end means to the end. But it was clear that us and Dino had different ways forward."

Kvyat did do several more races with Dino, so as to earn enough points to qualify for the European championship. But he realised that, if he did race there, he'd be doing so with a different team.

All that aside, the exit from Chiesa's team was peaceful. "Dino has a gift, building karts for winners," Daniil asserts. "But not everybody can work together well, and that's how it turned out for us. I know what Dino can do. I've seen plenty of proof. Later, he'd see, too. But back then it didn't work out. We could've won many titles together. But then, who knows, maybe I would've wanted to stay in karts for a bit longer, win some more trophies, wait on the move to formula racing. And that's not how it turned out in the end. As they say, it's all for the best."
Original author's orthography is preserved.